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Without the demand of several hundred multicolored issues to attend to seemingly all at one time, he's somewhat lost. Not that he'd admit that— and if he would, it would be said grudgingly. The last thing he could've ever expected had became reality, and now he doesn't know where to place himself. Aldo can't wrap his mind around it. Hitler's dead. Hitler's dead, just like that. And, chronologically speaking in terms of historic wartime events, everything is more or less over. There is one question and sits in his chest like heartburn; it's everywhere, so awfully omnipresent. One question and the many variants of it, what now?

After sitting down for what felt like an hour, he realizes he doesn't have a clue. He still can’t figure it out. Without the safe barrier from disillusionment that was command, how do you just slink back into society this suddenly? He’s done it before, sure, but then he’d had adequate time before the dust would settle. The thought grounds itself over evenly and coolly, but it only expands the dry burn in his chest.

So Aldo narrows his goals: slims it down from gazing out into the abyss that the future's inevitably going to be and tries to focus on what happens now. What happens today, what happens this evening. After another slow, painful amount of time of thinking slowly and not in the twelve-thoughts-per-second manner that war germinated within him he decides he wants... to sleep on a bed. A bed, yeah. A fully fleshed out queen-sized bed with satin sheets and a comforter, and if not that, just a bed with a mattress that doesn’t have holes or ticks. A shower with one of those detachable showerheads and illuminated lights. Hell, actually, just a shower would do him okay. Get some food. Steak and onions with sauerkraut and drizzling grease, mashed potatoes, greens. A glass of red wine. Or not. Doesn't have to be real food, just food. Maybe a cheesesteak. Maybe some soup, the taste of which isn’t completely diluted by water.

Twelve days ago he caught a plane to London, and he's taken himself around nicely in new solitude, shedding the skin that was his previous getup and stopping at a clothing store for the first time in who knows how long now. Didn’t buy anything for at least twenty minutes, as he mostly just wanted the atmosphere. He stopped by a restaurant for a while and sat alone wired up the ass and distinctly uncomfortable but, at the very least, fed. Fed, and now, tired. Pleasant exhaustion consumes.
He’s traversing his hotel now. His legs start to drag on their own as he's up the staircase, and when he's at the gates to the land of milk and honey that is his door, life is but a dream. An easy, calm dream.

One that starts to feel like a nightmare when Aldo hears someone coming up the stairs— but his paranoia is assuaged when he reminds himself he's in a hotel now and everything is over. His mind can’t seem to get the memo. He forks the key into the lock, but it crunches in the wrong direction. Yep, lock's jammed.

"Shit," he mutters.

He throw a curious glance over his right shoulder to look at the mouth of the staircase, but nobody's shown yet. It might just be roomkeeping or another guest. He looks back down and continues fiddling with the lock, and he vows he's not focusing on it, but the way whoever's coming up is walking is all sorts of fucked. They sound like they're either waltzing or piss drunk, but hey, the war's over. So it's not weird, but he's still plagued with this nervous jolt running between his shoulders and presses much more insistently into the keyhole to vent his anxieties up until he hears the final buckle and creak of the top stair.

They've stopped, and so has he. War-mode clicks back in and, subconsciously, Aldo switches his stance. Throws another quick glance.

Does a double take.

Nigh shits himself.

"Small world, isn’t it?”

Something debilitating and sick crawls over his skin like frostbite, and Aldo is temporarily paralyzed.

Hans Landa is stomping around with his unusual bravado until he plants himself firmly in the middle of the hallway and clicks his tongue loudly. Addressingly.

"Aldo, the, Apache," he says, roaring out with a cackle that could overtake thunder. "It would appear I am safe from chagrin tonight."

Aldo fixes him a glare whilst twice as fervently working the lock.

"Did you miss me? Or should I say... did Jew miss me? Ha! Haha! Oh, that was good. I hadn’t even planned to say that."

Slowly but surely Hans is horning in on him, sauntering closer. Aldo's itching to beat his face in, of course, but he doesn't give him the time of day aside from another quick look or two to digest what he’s seeing. No more SS garb, he’s wearing the spitting image of middle-class normality. He looks like a normal, standard person, and some element of that rocks Aldo to his very core. The swastika's faded, somewhat. He can still remember every slash that made a line and it's like he can still see it crystal clear, but due to whatever makeup Hans has caked it underneath looks like a vertical forehead crease followed by a bunch of stress lines. Looks like a botched lobotomy now.

"Why haven't you said anything? Am I being ignored? I know you hear me," Hans calls, feigning a childlike pouty disappointment. "You can't just ignore me."

Instinctively, Aldo responds– "Yes I can, and I sure fuckin' will"– and he harshly reprimands himself internally for doing so. He could’ve pretended Hans had the wrong person, kept on his way, but that’s drowned. He groans.

"You’re still angry, aren’t you? Come, come. Let’s talk."

"Can you fuck off? Can you just fuck off?"

Aldo cycles through every jammed key method he knows while frantically darting his eyes between the lock and Hans- and he's bisected evenly down the middle by two impulses. One that desperately doesn't want to engage him and just wants to sleep this off and chalk it up as a horrible, hyperrealistic nightmare, and one that wants to kill him on the account he wouldn't be missed by a soul. The latter is wining.

"I, for your information, dug you up from the very bottom of my filing cabinet to apologize. Apologize, yes. Unlike me, no? I’m starting to move on, tying up some loose ends here and there, giving condolences for... Oh, blah blah blah. All of that. Not important. You understand what I am trying to say. What’s important is that I fooooound you! I found you, Aldo! Again we are reunited. It was hard. You move around too much. I looked here, I looked there..."

Aldo steels his nerves and, calmly, raises the key to check the tag number. This... isn’t his room. Wrong room. Yeah, wrong room. Of course. He’s been coming here for almost two weeks and he doesn’t even know where he’s sleeping.

He takes three deep breaths just as behavioral therapy suggested and turns on his heel, picking up his things and taking down the hallway. Responding was a mistake, and he thinks it might not be too late to act like Hans is invisible again. It's just four doors down. He can make that.

But Hans' voice is still back there, ditsy and amused; "Wait wait wait wait wait. Wait for me," And then he's in a full sprint charging Aldo's way with audible speed. He's clinging onto Aldo's arm before the latter can react. Again by harsh instinct Aldo's in motion, dropping the keys and wresting his fist around Hans' neck before throwing him off in a quite animated way. When the shock subsides he stoops for his keys and moves a bit faster in his walk.

"Ow!"

That's not a cry of real pain, obviously not. And one of the infinite faculties of that jets rage all throughout every one of Aldo's circuits.

Hans is like one of those practice boxing bags that, no matter how hard you hit it, always rebounds the exact same way. He's always winning somehow, dishing out power moves and always knowing what buttons are ripe for the pushing. It's, at deepest possible, fundamentally infuriating and a steady chant of 'kill him' is spurring up Aldo's insides, but he's two doors away now— and then he's at the door. Aldo drops his bags and forces the key in, wrings the door open and starts kicking things inside. Hans got up at some point and is outside the threshold now, stopping Aldo's attempted slam with his right foot and trying to wriggle in, but he cannot. He sputters out meaningless aggravated sounding German but then looks up, meeting Aldo's face with the sunshiney expression he'd been holding.

"Stop. Stop! You'll crush my hands!"

"'Less you want worse you ought to get the fuck out-"

"Let me talk for a minute. Lord, you’re- you’re stubborn."

Then Hans stops playfighting and starts working the door open using his entire body weight, and though it's not much compared to Aldo's build Hans is no less of a man. He eyes Aldo into oblivion, putting on a valedictorian smile on the knowing he more than certainly caught the other off guard and uses his advantage well, sliding in through the window of opportunity that opened.

Ten seconds of pure silence and unbroken eye contact. "Guten Abend, Mr. Raine."

Aldo has him by the throat and is spitting every insult in the book at him, but Hans puts up no fight. He lets himself be pressed up against the wall and stifles the yell he wants to make from the blow he gets to the stomach and maintains his painted smile, winning. Aldo musters everything he can into his next punches, but all Hans does is twitch. He's still winning.

"I'm gonna wring your fuckin' neck you Jew-killing, stalking asshole-"

“Jew-killing? I don’t dooooooo that,” Hans says, rolling his eyes. “I never did. I just found them. I didn’t kill them. Large distinction. You know that and yet you’re committed to your obliviousness. Stop slandering me. I’m being civil.”

“If stalking someone is considered civility then I guess I’m in the wrong fuckin’ outfit, aren’t I, bitch?”

Hans attempts to clear his throat, Adam’s apple bobbing weakly under Aldo’s hand. It’s surprisingly difficult to swallow. “Not particularly. This shirt looks great on you. Very handsome. Is that genuine suede?”

"How the fuck did you fuckin' find me here?"

“Oh, that? That's not what we're discussing, Aldo, and it’s... not important right now," Hans responds softly. His voice breaks off into a pained stutter when Aldo clenches his hand down, pressing in a nigh death grip. "Oh. I can't- cannot breathe. Okay. Okay, okay. Lessen up. Really. I mean it. Aldo. Aldo?"
He realizes then his control over the situation is exponentially declining and mentally does an about-face, clamping both hands over Aldo's wrist and pulling downward to the best of his ability. “Please? Please? I really can’t- Aldo. Aldo. I-”

A cold layer of apprehension settles over the both of them and Aldo's expression contorts back to a more stilled one. In that moment, the invisible scoreboard dogging them inverts again and regardless of whether or not he knows he’s doing it, he loosens his grip.

Hans chokes rather than breathes for a solid minute after he's let go of, both hands on his knees. He slinks downward a bit and takes breaths anywhere on the spectrum between shallow and deep, and he's not broken yet, but Aldo does have the advantage now. And he rears his head back upward after adequate time, corners of his eyes becoming just slightly tinted and a thin hand-shaped bruise already starting to take color. His sweat is ruining the concealer on his forehead.

“Okay. Well. So. I appreciate your enthusiasm, so, well, you know, um, at least you have that,” Hans says, harshly mispronouncing nigh every word- his accent is in the way. It feels like five minutes until he is stood properly, stretching hard and wiping sweat from his browline. Most of his concealer goes with it, and Aldo takes a moment to ponder how poorly the swastika scabbed over. It looks as if he’d been picking at it. “What a... formidable hand.”

“What happened up there?”

“Huh? What?”

Aldo jabs the center of Hans’ scar with his index finger, resulting in a sudden gasp of pain that’s covered with the mask of elation as quickly as it came out.

Hans says, through gritted teeth and a clearly forced smile, “Unnecessary! Un, ne, ce, ssary!”

“You been scratching at it?”

“It’s irritated. Look, you made it worse. Do you know you make everything worse and that you’ve also ruined my life? Listen. One bad night staring at the ceiling thinking of all my decisions. It happens from time to time, you must understand. I feel so bad about you losing your beloved, well, group of friends in particular that I choose, choose, to manually go through the hundreds of half-shredded documents-” Aldo stops consciously listening at this point and looks elsewhere- “I’ve still yet to figure out what to do with just to get ten sentences or so about you to then use those to spend one hellish week talking to a bunch of hicks to then find out you’re not even in the country- I- listen. Impulsive decision. I know. I think I was drunk. But the fact of the matter is-”

“’Irritated cause you’re dressing it up with shit. Maybe if you didn’t do that.”

“Do you think that is optional?”

“You sound angry.”

“I am-” Hans starts, before catching himself, blinking twice, and taking a deep breath. “I’m okay. No. I’m okay. Yes, I’m okay. I’m okay.”

“I’m not the kind to be really tolerant when my guests, invited or not, start screaming in my face. Where’s your manners, buttercup? Leave ‘em home?”

“Where are my manners? My manners? I’ll tell you where my manners are, you ape-”

“Watch it.”

“I try to do something out of the kindness and generosity of my heart and your insensitive, dimwitted American ass decides he wants to... Not only does he want to obliterate my life by branding my forehead, but he also wants to torture me further outside of the realm of professional courtesy that drove him to do it in the first place. I understand why you did it. But I still don’t agree with it, as you chose the worst location possible. You know. The first thing people usually see when they look at my face?”

“Don’t know if you were listening much back then, but yeah. That was the point. The whole fuckin’ point.” Aldo flicks the side of his chin and snickers. “It’s not the first thing. You got nice eyes.”

“You are the worst human being-”

He continues ranting. Aldo likens him to a deer with a wounded leg and touches the side of his face, stroking it mockingly. He cuts him off: “Oh, shh. Shush up. I know, I know. And I am sorry. I’m real sorry about that. Couldn’t help myself back then. You know why? ‘Cause you got real nice, clean skin.”

“I-” Hans is very much beside himself, shaking inexhaustibly and panting out of pure, raw exhaustion, but he stares back with this bewildered, hollow sort of look that suggests he was expecting the same energy he put out to be returned but was surprised. Somewhat pleasantly surprised. “I'm sorry?”

“You heard me. See where my hand just was?” Aldo runs a palm over the expanse of Hans’ neck; the latter flinches but in a way that goes unnoticed. “Look at that...”

“Oh, stop it,” Hans mumbles, turning his head away as best he can until it’s turned back by a hand now on his chin. “You’re embarrassing me. That sounds very sexual, Aldo.”

“How?”

“You’re flirting with me. Obviously,” Hans says. He takes a second to breathe in numbers and rein his mind back into place, remembers to manage his anger in a non-confrontational way. Shrugs into the discomfort of the situation.

“No I’m not.”

“Then that would make this the first instance that comes to mind of a man telling another man he has smooth skin in a non-flirtatious way. You’re flirting with me. Case closed.”

“Sounds like you want me to be.”

“And you sound like you’re five seconds away from trying to have sex with me. But that hasn’t happened, has it?”

“And you sound like you want that shit.”

“I find that very contradictory. You, accusing me of wanting sex when you’re the one grating me up against the wall while touching me. Huh? Isn’t that right?”

“What I find contradictory is your choice to make me out to be flirting in the first place. I didn’t drag us there, you did.”

“You absolute snake, you. You complete snake. How escapist.”

Aldo follows up with a quick yet nonetheless forceful slap across Hans’ face, which leaves him grunting and slipping out of place. With the same hand, Aldo grabs his chin and pulls him back up by it, but the look on his face is amused rather than actually offended. “The mouth on you, I swear.” The vitriol and sarcasm is laced so thick over Aldo’s words and the way that he laughs that Hans has a mental image of him choking on it. “Watch yourself.”

Hans is mostly keeled over in wonder about this being the first time he’s ever been slapped by a man. None would dare. Women would at times– and then they would disappear– but no man has ever touched his face without his consent with negative intention. His cheek burns with a slight buzz that evaporates in a single moment, but the pain was still enough to make his face whiten somewhat. The shock sits in his stomach and doesn’t move.
Alongside the delicately twirled web of epiphanies is the fact there’s no reason, no hierarchical structure in place, for someone not to slap him anymore, and that is... a damning reminder. He severed himself manually, of course, but he’s still nursing the mental stress of having torn himself away rather than peeled. He could have peeled if he’d went about his original, much more clandestine plan, but the theater opportunity simply had to rear itself.

He swallows, gives Aldo a look. He wishes he had the ability to telepathically communicate, but settles with the hope that his eyes will do all the communication he needs, as they often used to do.

“This is very...” While he won’t break eye contact, thinking of it as an admittance of defeat, Hans does dart his eyes downward a few times at random. “Mm. I’m not sure how I feel about this, Apache. How unusual of such a man like yourself.”

“Oh, don’t start with that shit.”

“’Don’t start’? You started this. I’m just playing along. It takes two, doesn’t it? A mutual effort. We’re very intimate now.”

“No we ain’t.”

“Tell me of one example of a man holding another man’s chin that is not...” Hans pauses for too long. Something clicks in his brain and it spreads itself around, vast and omnipresent. “In some way, intimate.”

Aldo seems to slink back into reality as well, and gives Hans a perturbed look before letting go and backing up generously. He stands with his feet planted in an extremely weighted way; one that reads of heavy upset as he visibly tangles with himself. Hans feels it’s right to think his side of their invisible scoreboard gained a point, but far deeper than that he’s somewhat disappointed.

Centuries of silence passed them both by, Aldo’s stomach still churning sick with the reality of what just happened clattering around his skull. They stare at each other for an inordinate amount of time until he grunts and wordlessly disappears into the bathroom.

Hans stands still for a moment, and then attempts to even himself. He straightens his collar, sheds his coat and pulls up his belt, crosses over to the vanity’s mirror and does damage control; what little of his concealer is left is being smudged by his hair. He slides on a glove and wipes the rest off. It’s not as if appearances matter anymore here in this lawless hotel room, right? He’s here with the man who is responsible, after all. It does look like he’s been scratching at it, he notices, and it’s largely because he has been. It was always compulsory, near fully subconscious to scratch at the edges in a weak attempt to ebb it away. He listens to the shower run while feebly attempting to fix his hair. He feels strange, out of his depth. Profoundly confused.
For a while he strolls around, trying to stretch the new kinks out of his back and pawing worriedly at the mark around his neck- can people tell that it’s handshaped? It obviously is, but can people tell that from a certain angle? How long until it fades? Scarf or turtleneck? He’s never been in much favor of either. To calm the residuals of his shaking, he lights a cigarette and opens the room’s only window.

Feeling a surge of sleuthy nosiness washing over his mind, he goes through Aldo’s belongings. He’s well-endowed with a pistol and his knife is here, and again, despite the history he has with the object Hans can’t stop himself from grazing over it with his fingers. It’s such a spectacle in some way. The blade is sharp enough to cut even without pressing his fingers into it. It’s been recently sharpened, and he takes a moment to say a quiet thanks for the fact Aldo wasn’t in a worse mood today.
Passport featuring a very disgruntled looking Aldo. He isn’t much for forced smiling, Hans deduces. Straight razor. Longjohns. Enough clothing to last, Hans speculates, two weeks. Wallet. Random memorabilia. Two books. Both are instructional manuals, one of which is an language manual. For— Italian. He wants to laugh, but he covers his mouth. First aid kit and a basic sewing kit. Long scissors. Chewing tobacco. Matchbook. Hip flask. A bottle of Merlot, which Hans takes a covert swig from.
Autochromes of people he doesn’t know in a neatly bundled stack. They’re in no discernible order, Aldo is sprinkled into the photographs at random. Sometimes he is the focus, most of the time he is not. It’s a time lapse of years from the look of it, and the closer to the center of the stack the photo is the happier Aldo looks, and... better fed? Hans never had reason to consider it before as there was no point of reference, but in comparison to who he just saw, this Aldo looks much more... nourished. The impression around his neck is also strikingly absent. He flips every autochrome, estimating them to be around the 30’s, and he is right. One is captioned ‘25th birthday’, another ‘Aldie being Aldie’. Aldie. Hans has a few strangely caring, affectionate thoughts and banishes them all, not quite sure what to make of them. At the very back of the stack is a small tintype of a child who looks remarkably like—
The shower stops running and Hans has to blink himself out of the coma he thought his way into. He tries to replicate how everything looked before as he puts it all back. Hopes Aldo isn’t detail-oriented or won’t care.

In three minutes Aldo’s out, towel circling his waist and steam enfolding his body like a halo. He takes one look at Hans and scrunches his lips, throwing a glance at the window. “At least you’re somewhat considerate.” He seems and sounds much calmer, so Hans attempts to reflect his energy.

“Aldo,” Hans says. He’s not sure why he addressed him. What to... say?

“Mm-hmm.”

“What is a buttercup?”

He expects to be belittled for not knowing, but instead he’s given a nonchalant response: “Flower.”

“Oh.” Pause. “What kind of flower?”

“It’s yellow, has a few petals. Can be layered. Sure y’all have them in Germany.”

“Doubtlessly. I was unsure of the name, is all.”

“Alright.”

Long pause. Hans catches himself trying to watch him dress behind the room divider, and stops. Simply... morbid curiosity, he tells himself. “Thank you, Aldo.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Thank you, also, for your hospitality.” It’s not really what Hans wants to say, but it makes enough sense. His mind still feels silky from the autochromes, elsewhere and earthless. Somewhat nostalgic. “I promise I won’t be too heavy of a guest for you.”

“Yep. So, when are you leavin’?”

“You aren’t still mad at me, are you?”

“Oh, I still am indeed. Big time. It just ain’t on my face or in my voice right now. But all that was very cathartic, somehow.”

“I wasn’t aware it was possible to stay upset about old events for this long.”

“And I wasn’t aware you liked men. Same boat, I guess.”

Well.

He’s not entirely wrong, is the thing. Despite his often coming to the improper conclusion, Hans has found there are gears turning in that head. He’s not averse to a man’s touch, but regardless the nervous apprehension of being known does loom on the horizon. Yet– a thing Hans notices is that the way Aldo said that was not particularly derogatory or insulting. It was said somewhat like an inquiry. If he chose now to actually tell him, he imagines, he’d be met with a gentle ‘huh’ and nothing else. It’s a humbling thought. He absently thinks about what a bewildering turn of events this has been. How to word himself, then?

“I like... to enjoy myself.” Close enough.

“Huh.”

“Oh! I knew you’d say that! Haha!”

“Wouldn’t have figured you to be a queer.”

“Nobody does. Meaning I’m going about it correctly.”

“You made it kinda obvious.”

“Obvious?”

“Look at it from my perspective. I was just trying to make leave on your own terms by making you uncomfortable, which you would’ve been if you weren’t queer. You wouldn’ta entertained the thought of me flirting at all, right?”

They share even, but nonetheless awkward eye contact.

Hans prims his lips tightly, eyebrows creasing out in a way that suggests that deep thought. “Let me start by saying I was long before arriving at this dump prepared to experience the dangers of seeing you. I expected some sort of... something, an altercation, a likely violent one. Verbal abuse, physical abuse. A fight or two, which happened, and I will also admit I came harshly unprepared for. But, well. The later parts I never could have seen coming. Some of that, I liked, but I do tend to stretch the truth at times. Don’t I? At least, if nothing else, we’re learning about each other.”

“’Some of that’. Got a percentage?”

“Interesting question. Maybe... hm, fifty percent I liked, fifty percent I did not.”

“That is uncomfortably even, Landa.”

Hans, Aldo. No need for formalities anymore, we’re both ordinary men again.”

“I’ll call you what I want to.”

“Mm.” Hans shrugs and exhales a wispy cloud of smoke, makes that face he always makes. “How is that uncomfortable?”

“Don’t got a goddamn clue which is which.”

“And you should not.”

“Don’t tell me you liked the choking shit.” When Hans is silent, but gives him a worryingly coy expression: “I’m not playing.”

“Do you remember... that look? The one I gave you way back when.”

“Landa.”

“It’s just like that. To have Tennessee’s finest so close to me... Well, that’s...”

Landa.

“No need to yell! Lord, Apache. You really can’t take a joke, can you? I’m kidding. Seriously, I’m kidding. I like being able to breathe, like most people.”

“Thank fuck for that.”

“I will not thank any fucks. Anyway, despite my lack of interest in that particular activity, I consider myself very experimental and very accepting... there is nothing I shy from.”

“Like being called a buttercup, apparently. Again. Probably wouldn’t have liked that if you weren’t queer.”

“I didn’t know what a buttercup was, remember?” Hans leans his head against the wall, watching Aldo relace his boots. It’s somehow hypnotizing. “But I must be honest. Certain words will make me shy... when they are used within a certain context and said a certain way. I’m shocked at myself, really. You make for a decent flirter. I’d never have seen it in you.”

“Wasn’t trying to flirt,” Aldo says after a considerable silence, taking a deep breath at length. Wordlessly, he gets around to unpacking and clearing up the mess they’d made in the initial struggle. When he feels it time to change the topic, he says, “Outta curiosity, what were you expecting when you tracked me down? I didn’t feel anything significant in your pockets.”

“To apologize. You’d know that if you were listening to me earlier. I have no intention to maim you as you tried to do me. If I’m turning over a new leaf, as they say, every bridge must be charred to an unidentifiable crisp. Why I sought you out personally? Well, perhaps a momentary spasm of longing or nostalgia combined with the desire to do what I do best- I- wait, I- Aldo Raine, did you pickpocket me?”

“Just pat you down. Didn’t take anything. You got nothing that really concerns me.”

“You left them in there, yes?”

“What’d I say.”

“Oh. Well. Thank you for not entirely breaching my privacy and also for not being a complete savage.” Hans has a thought that they’re even now.

“You lost your right to privacy the second you stepped into this damn room.”

“You pickpocketed my rights!”

“Sure did.”

“May I have them back?”

“Absolutely not. You don’t need ‘em.”

“I need them so that I can acquire legal council when I tell the authorities about you. Look at all these bruises.”

“I took more than just your basic rights, actually. You ain’t got the right to tell the police that I nearly iced you, the right to look at me, or the right to talk. Now hush up.”

Hans turns his head, pouts deeply, and crosses his arms. If this was anyone else, Aldo probably would’ve laughed or found that cute.

“Alright, you can have the last one back.”

“Yippee! May I also have the second one?”

“Nope.”

“Pleaaaase? It’s my favorite right!”

“Who the fuck has a favorite right? Take it if you want it.”

“What a wonderful day this is. I’ll have to remember to mark my calendar; this beautiful, serene Sunday evening, the day Aldo Raine bestowed upon me The Right To Look At Aldo Raine just moments after revoking it. Charming. An event to withstand the sands of time.” He’s then feeling around for an ashtray and is disappointed- “Seriously? What kind of hotel is this? Are we sure this isn’t an inn? I’m assuming the lack of stars is attributed to an adjacent lack of basic customer care. Oh, whatever,” Hans says, flicking his cigarette out of the window. He turns back. “Thank you for allowing me to smoke.”

Aldo isn’t really listening, but he nods and returns the eye contact. Silence passes for a moment. “How’d you find me here. Really. Strings?”

“Strings? My strings? What am I, a violinist? You mean nonspecific persons affiliated with me that are articulated in the area of sleuthing? Please. Aldo, have you forgotten every interlocked crystal of our deal? I no longer have those. I never needed and nor did I ever need ‘strings’. What an insult. I am so offended. No, this was merely me going about my work and executing it flawlessly.”

“Flawlessly my ass. ‘Said it took you a week.”

“It did. I say flawlessly because you were an exceptionally difficult wasp to smoke out of the attic, if you will. As I said... I figured you would just be in the U.S. doing whatever it is Americans do; sucking each other off, committing grisly public suicides, stealing from thine neighbors, whatever, et cetera, so I spent time looking for names and addresses around the place you said you were from. I had a constant group that seemed promising, somewhat big. Thirty or so people all willing to discuss your whereabouts. But oh, Aldo is not home! Or, we haven’t heard from him in months! Or, my favorite, ‘Aldo’s a half-baked degenerate who ought to stay gone’. How colorful. Let me tell you, those people aren’t worth the flesh and blood they’re composed of-” Aldo interjects “Don’t I know it”– “and I then came upon this fact: I was asking the wrong questions all along. I was asking people where you were instead of asking myself why you weren’t anywhere to be found. Game. Changer. That epiphany is what gives me the right to say ‘flawlessly’.”

Aldo observes how matter-of-factly this is all described, as if it’d taken him less than an hour.

“Here was my thought process. ’If I was Aldo Raine, and if not in a ditch on the side of the road somewhere, where would I be right now?’ Apples don’t fall too far from the tree they spent a decent part of their lifespan on, right?” Hans pauses for a good moment, making a very persistent ‘hmm’ sound. He then snaps his fingers, “Europe. He’s still in Mother Europa.”

“Getting warmer,” Aldo says.

“He’s not going to be in Germany for the obvious reasons, but also because he’d be sick of her at this point. He’s going to have traveled somewhere, maybe with his little friend, but it’s likely the latter went home to his family or whomever. Okay, Aldo is alone. Nearby countries that are feasible? None. He doesn’t want a multilingual fiasco on his desk again. Does he?” It’s a terrible idea, but Hans throws a knowing glance toward the drawer with the language manual in it. Aldo follows with his eyes, but doesn’t seem to understand the cue based upon the lack of variation in expression.

“...No, certainly don’t.”

“He wants to speak English again. But not in America. He could be sequestered in some tourist-friendly town somewhere English isn’t the dominant language, but again this is also unlikely, knowing him. He can’t be bothered to learn a substantial amount of another language. Where can you speak English on this continent with a lack of foreseeable repercussions or language barriers? Britain! He doesn’t know anything about Britain. Where do you go when you don’t know anything about a country but still want to go? The capital! London! He’s in London! Where in London? Just stepped out of the airport, head likely still spinning from the last few weeks. He’s a tired little baby. He’s exhausted and not going to venture too far from the airport as he isn’t staying long anyhow. He wants to sleep for a while and doesn’t care where. Where does he go? Cheapest hotel within a mile radius of the aforementioned airport. Which happened to be...” Hans makes a fanfare sound with his mouth, smiling widely. “Stelvio’s!”

Aldo is completely dumbfounded.

“How did- How- I-”

And then, at the culmination of all that, here you are with your feet up.”

“I-”

“Can I give you a little tip, Aldo? Being who you are, you ought to register anonymously when you book. Yes? Do as you please once you’ve left the continent, but be on your guard here. Mm? We aren’t out of the woods yet, you or me. We’re both in equal amounts of danger just being here, but, you know. Such is life after wartime, I suppose.”

Something that looks like raw fear made manifest sweeps over Aldo’s face, and Hans registers it. Documents it. He almost wants to reach out and, he doesn’t know, give Aldo a hug or something, say a few kind words of compassion. It’s almost virginal, his reaction, as if he’d finally got a full glimpse of the underbelly to getting involved with Nazis in any capacity.

“Anyway... I went into six hotels asking for you by name, and I come to this one, and the lady downstairs didn’t even look up at me. She just says, ‘third floor’. Seriously. Not even a room. How flippant. I think it’s fate I caught you before you got inside.”

Aldo’s expression is very troubled and he stares at the floor. “Uh. Well. That all, uh. Seems like a lot of effort to just say sorry.”

“I’m dedicated, unlike most,” Hans states, sounding offended. “It’s also very fun. My highest joy is reaping the fruit of my efforts. You seem disturbed, Aldo?”

“Yeah, I’m disturbed. Course I fuckin’ am... What the hell? You’re real stalkerish, you know that?”

“I’ve been told that before. It is my business to be real stalkerish. It’s my profession. Should I be bad at it? Should I rather be fake stalkerish? Anyway... now that you know why and how I’m here, I’d like to know what you’re doing here.”

Aldo stares at Hans askance for a moment before taking a long, deep breath. He swears it’s too stuffy, and to seek refuge he’s then moving toward the window. He sticks out of it for a minute, mostly out of need for fresh air, but he doesn’t mind the sights or the breeze. The cold air is pleasantly chilled and he yields into it, trying to ease his mind from how predictable he now feels.
He hangs there for longer than Hans feels he can abide waiting, and the latter makes his way over, popping out as well. They’re shoulder to shoulder then, staring at the skyline until Hans reveals another lit cigarette, holding it up toward Aldo’s mouth.

“This will calm you down. Hasn’t failed me yet.”

“’Don’t smoke.”

“I’m assuming you mean you don’t smoke American brands, yes? Which is fair. These, however, dear Aldo, are pure luxury. Note the gold-tinned filter.”

“Is that real?”

“Tastes as though it is. Come see.”

Tentatively, Aldo reaches for it, and Hans makes an ‘uh-uh’ type of sound, pointing toward the skyline. He almost wants to say ‘made you look’ as he pushes the cigarette to Aldo’s lips, thinking this a very worthy expenditure of his favorite brand. Contrary to the expected reaction, however, Aldo takes a lengthy inhale, eyebrows raising in pleased enjoyment.

“Alright. Not as bad as I thought.”

“I have exquisite taste,” Hans beams, gazing outward again. He has a passing thought this would be a very memorable place to shotgun with someone, blanches, and executes the idea immediately. Except for the fact that it resurfaces in his mind as he glances to the left of him again, somewhat worriedly, but Aldo looks entirely uninvolved. Tranquil, rested. He exhales a cloud and appears to settle in for another drag– and Hans sits mystified he’s still holding it for him.

“Oh, yeah. You asked about, uh. What I’m doing here.” Aldo straightens up a bit. “Seems like you already go the more subconscious parts of it down, but, well. How should I put it? I guess you could say I need, uh... some time alone to... sort some internal shit out. Some ‘me’ time. That, and I don’t feel much like being around the general public. States n’ the military are gonna be a goddamn menagerie of talking heads wondering who the fuck did what, and I really don’t feel like answering to all them just this second. Now, if you ask me, your sorry ass ought to be doing it for me.”

“I see, I see. Well put, Mr. Raine. Logical. Are you enjoying your me  time?”

“Uh-huh. Our  time now, more like.”

Hans mellows at that. He considers that if they were on better standing that would have been incredibly romantic. “Lovely.”

“But me saying ‘ours’ denotes you, and given that you’re here as well, I don’t think you have any capacity to ask why I’m not in the states. Notice how you ain’t getting head in Nantucket right now.”

“You have a good eye, Aldo. Whereas the rest of your country are neanderthals, you are my shining Cro Magnon.”

“Thanks, buttercup. Haven’t got the balls to go over there yet?”

Hans chances taking his own drag, and returns it back to Aldo. Who, to his absolute shock, doesn’t seem to mind that. “I did, remember? Just not for long. To dig for you, to sign legal documents. And, well. I was busy debating on whether or not I am too old for facial reconstruction. Ha!”

“And then you started using makeup when you decided you didn’t wanna go under the knife and risk that ten million dollar forehead of yours, right?”

“Bingo!”

“You’re a dumbass.”

“I am a beautiful, robust buttercup. Strongest in the garden.”

“Strongest, maybe, but I’ve got the shears. Careful with yourself.”

Hans sighs in a happy sort of way, resting his cheek on the palm of his hand. “We fit together like puzzle pieces.”

In response, Aldo holds two fists out and brings them together sharply, making a ‘shck’ sound, and Hans feigns death by wilting over the windowsill and flattening himself against it. Aldo can’t help the chuckle he makes. “Get up.”

“I still haven’t gotten a U.S. passport photograph taken yet. What do you think my pose should be? How should I dress?”

“Uh... Smile one of them big ugly smiles of yours, wear something beige and hold up your favorite record album.”

Hans has a beautiful moment of association- sans the smile, Aldo just described himself from one of his more juvenile autochromes. “Beige, beige. Mmm, never was my color. The rest is good, but agh, beige? Can you even imagine me in that.”

“What else you got in mind? Olive green? Grey, maybe? Big scary leather trenchcoat?”

“Oh! You read my mind! They look best on me. Right?”

“No. However, you’d look alright in beige.”

“I will humor you, then. Beige two-piece. Double breasted?”

“Double breasted.”

“Beige two-piece, double breasted. Violet handkerchief and matching tie. I’ve always wanted to try out a lilac or violet type color. Big ugly smile. Favorite record. Unfortunately, I lost my copy of Feodor Chaliapin in the moving process, so.”

“You like Feodor?”

“You’ve heard Feodor?”

They eye one another for a very long span of time.

“Once or twice, yeah. A translation, though.” Aldo’s voice is unusually quiet. “What?”

“I’m impressed, I suppose. I never would have expected you to... I don’t know, be interested in that type of- never mind. Never mind.”

“Uh, alright.”

The eye contact persists, and Hans is still holding the damn cigarette for reasons unknown. His mind stutters back into operation and he darts his vision downward twice at Aldo’s lips, confused again like earlier. Aldo, alternatively, begins to make his own assumptions when Hans quickly snatches the cigarette with a particularly shaky hand and takes a drag from it. As he does this, the shaking stops.

Time to change the subject, Hans figures, and he talks as blitzy as ever; “I kept the trenchcoat, you know. Everything else is presently being incinerated as far as I’m aware, but I couldn’t part with the coat. Such warm memories of sweltering to death in it simply for the sake of a more threatening appearance. Two entire summers I wore that massive, bulky thing because it scared people. It physically scared people. And you know something else? Without it, people didn’t recognize me. I could be wearing the hat, I could be wearing every medal ever issued, but without the coat I simply was not the Jew Hunter.”

“The dress makes or breaks the man, Landa.”

“Indeed, indeed! Hottest day in the summer. I’m sure I’ve ascertained where some... urm, war criminals, are being... held.” Aldo gives Hans a knowing sort of look, but only rolls his eyes. “I’m sitting in a painstakingly small room for an hour  trying to shake this man, yes? He will not talk no matter what I say or what I do. I’m swimming in a pool of my own sweat and exceedingly irritable. And do you know what he does? He offers me a glass of water. Fine, lovely, but he uses the most facetious voice to say it. Would you like a glass of water?  Could I offer you some water, Mr. Landa?”

“Pssh. Then what?”

“I did something very unprofessional.”

“Which was?”

“Sometimes...when I’m angry, Aldo, I do very impulsive things. Regrettable things. Anger on, reasoning off. We’re alike in that regard.”

“The fuck did you do?”

“I left.”

Aldo’s face scrunches up. “That’s it?”

“And I was later ‘chewed out’ for arson.” Hans bathes in the look he’s given, smiling widely. “We’re driving away, I’m still fuming as you’d expect. I practically throw myself out of the passenger’s window and scream ‘would you  like a glass of water?’ in the house’s direction, it’s- God, that’s one of the most infantile things I’ve ever done. But it felt so good.”

“Shit. I think he was trying to be nice. You have no idea how to treat your hosts.”

“No. You had to be there. He just smirks at me and asks if I’d like some water. Not water, water. The nerve.”

“How many stories like that you got?”

“Too many for me to make it into heaven. I’m imagining having my future daughter sat on my knee and struggling to describe the situation that lead to my swastika in child-friendly terms.”

“That’d be easy, just make something up. Had a little playground spat as a kid.”

“I fell into a bush because a big scary American man pushed me.”

“Hiking and forgot to mind the branches.”

“Fencing mishap.”

“Ooh, that’s good. Explosion at the refinery.”

“I angered women at a nail salon.”

“You can tell her that’s why you don’t got a wife.”

“I didn't even think of that! Perfect! Aldo, you’re a genius! Do you see this right now? Are you analyzing this conversation to the extent that I am? Two highly self-aware men who are in hiding due to political reasons... and bantering together! All the things we could rather be doing and we’re doing this. I’d never have thought this possible before today.”

“It’s whatever. I’m mostly just glad you’re not enjoying that massive plantation-sized piece of land they probably bought ya.”

“Oh, I will be, very soon. The moment I find a concealer that matches my complexion in every lighting. I am somewhere between Gold Buff and a lighter Honey Beige, but the woman in the department said I was closer to Yellowstone mixed with subtle Ecru. Which is... so wrong. Terribly, woefully incorrect. Not even close. In saying that she suggests I am the color of champagne when I am clearly Golden Peach, although that shade is no longer in production.”

“You do know I don’t have a clue what those look like, right?”

“No? When I settle, I will send you a perfume-stamped letter with the color swatches.” Hans puts his fingers to his lips and blows a kiss.

As if he can deflect the kiss by doing so, Aldo raises his hand and swats at nothing. Hans makes a small ‘aww’ sound and sends another one. This one is caught, and Aldo comes to terms with what he’s doing and he tries to deaden his smile. Why is he smiling at all?

“You know, I sleep good at night knowing you’re eventually gonna get what you’ve got coming to you and I was but one of the people meant to fuck you up along the road. One of the highest privileges I’ve ever been dealt.”

Hans wilts out of his posture. “You are so mean.”

“Nah. I’m honest,” Aldo chuckles to himself for a moment. “It’s hard for me to imagine your ass plunked down on an island in the middle of Massachusetts when you’re not even contained enough to keep quiet for more than a minute. Why there, anyway? Threw a dart at the map, huh?”

“Gorgeous little location near the ocean and conveniently far from Tennessee.”

“Damn right.”

“I could relax in the summer, go to Long Island in the winter. Spend some time in Montauk. Visit New York City! Bathe in the pleasantries of rest, relaxation, and overpriced mass tourism.”

“Looks like you did your homework.”

“Of course. I always think forward, Aldo. The actions today are the consequences of tomorrow.”

“True, true. You got yourself a good serving of karma a couple times before, didn’t you? Who is Hans Landa if not decorated?”

Hans doesn’t know how to respond to that, and his mouth opens and closes. Aldo watches his hand jolt again. “Anyway. While we’re here and enjoying ourselves so pleasantly, I’d like to take this moment to ask you, very politely, to stay for the night.”

“Why don’t you have your own room someplace already? When’s your flight out?”

“Tomorrow. I was going to do my business with you and go, but look at the time. It’s so late now. I don’t feel much like finding my own hotel this late.”

“This is a one person room. You know that. Look at that bed and tell me it’s a two-per.”

“Worry not, I’m very adaptable. Would you not agree that I am very slim?”

“If that means what I think it means.”

Hans winks and blows another kiss. This time, Aldo completely swerves out of its way as much as the windowpane will allow. With a shrug, Hans sticks the now significantly shorter cigarette into Aldo’s mouth and squeezes his cheek twice, telling him to enjoy what’s left of it.

Hans pushes himself upright- needing a second to readjust to the demands of gravity, drawing away from the window and heading to the bed in a way that flexes his authorial muscle. He no longer is in any particular stance of power, but he knows how to present like he is. Aldo notices it, he’s... strutting. His hips are moving in a very specific way, and he doesn’t even need to stand on the front pads of his feet to do it. It seems practiced, rehearsed. Aldo’s mind subsequently starts exploring just why he’d ever need to walk like that, and he shuts it down.

Once at the bed Hans sits pretty on it, crossing his legs and folding his hands.

“Speaking of our accommodations, I’m getting very cold over here and would very much benefit from a generous foreign aid donation. Would you pretty please, with two cherries on top, pass me the duvet covers? Mm? You see, if there are two cherries, we both can have one. Much like how we can both habitat within this room if we share it properly. Or, well. A singular cherry has two... What are those called in English? The fruit part. There is the stem, and then the... bulbs? The red part. A singular cherry has two of those. If there are two bulbs in total on one cherry, and we have two cherries, don’t we in a way have four cherries?”

“Ooookay. Uh, one thing. How is it that you speak like ten fuckin’ languages but you act like a toddler.”

“A toddler that could teach you proper Italian, if you’d like.”

“Keep tellin’ you to watch it, and yet,” Aldo says, rather loudly.

Schk!  Haha! I know, I know. But to get back to the point, I’m very cold.” And so he is thrown a set of spare covers from the dresser’s top and warned sternly not to fuck them up. It practically swallows him whole, as expected. “Hm! It smells like you.”

“You’re weird. You’re fuckin’ weird. That’s all you are. You're a weird little Nazi scumbag.”

“I’m not saying you smell bad. Because you don’t. You smell like... pine trees and aftershave. And a little bit like me now. And I smell very  good, so consider my presence a form of higher good.”

“I’m givin’ you five minutes, and if you’re still here, I’ll drag you out by your ankles.”

“Why? We are having such a lovely conversation. Are you paying no attention to what you are saying and what I am saying? Face it. I can tell you’re enjoying yourself. At first I didn’t want to acknowledge it because I was blind with rage, but we have a harmony with one another. We are delicately adjoined with one another. I adore that about us. I think that even if we were to walk on either paths at a forked road, the road itself would slowly curve back and we’d end up at each other again.”

“Think so?”

“Know so.”

“For the umpteenth time, you’re looking into it far too deep.”

“I enjoy conversing with you. You are mentally stimulating to me. It’s so funny to think that if I hadn’t bothered to come upstairs I never would have learned any of this about you and you’d still be the nefarious cretin you used to be in my mind.”

“Glad to see we were on the same page.”

“In fact, I’d- you should put that out now, by the way. Just throw it out of the window. If nobody complains within ten minutes we can reasonably say we got away with littering. Smoking suits your image. You should do it more often. Anyway, I’d like to continue with our earlier topic. I want to know more about what you plan to do once you fly back to America.”

Aldo does as he’s suggested. “Go home, sit down, and shut up.”

“And then?”

"Maybe grow out a beard? Figure out how to invest in shit?"

"And then?"

“Keep doin’ that till I’m needed somewhere.”

“Oh, please. Absolutely artless plan, especially for a Lieutenant. Tell me in all specificity what purpose that would serve in your life.”

“You tell me in all specificity what purpose it serves to track down people who’d be more than willing to kill you so you can stroll off on your moral high horse. I could’ve skinned your ass.”

“I-!” Again, Hans opens and closes his mouth, but this time, an impressed look crosses his features. “And that is another thing that flaunts our compatibility! You are the only man who knows how to counter me.”

“Course I can.”

“Mind you. My purpose was to apologize, but you wouldn’t hear it. Here you are tossing me around like a plaything and wresting with me and then acting like I chose not to apologize.”

“Nah... Nah, I would hear it, you just never tried to make it. Wasn't my fault."

"Shifting the blame as usual..." Hans checks his nails.

"I’m pretty sure I’d think very highly of such a substantial apology. Run it by me.”

“Of course. I am tremendously sorry for being the burden upon your life I once was, and I hope dearly for reparations in our relationship. May I be forgiven for my past transgressions and may we heal our mutual wounds of body and mind together. Particularly of body.” Hans sticks his hand out, smile persisting with undiminished brightness. Legs still crossed, form still perfected, he’s statuesque.

Thus Aldo is slow and conscientious in the way he crosses the room to Hans, making no visible hurry to do so. He stands above him when he’s there, looking down at him and sighing. “Apology half accepted, I’ll take it. And I’m sorry for your unfortunate, completely regrettable scarification and my biting the hand that never so much as poked me.” He doesn't mean it, of course; largely just throwing words out there, but judging by the ray of light that crosses Hans' face it sunk as legitimate.

“Divinely worded. Apology accepted. We would’ve been friends in a better world,” Hans muses aloud as they shake on it. “If you and I had met under radically different circumstances, we would have made good friends. I can see that.”

When their hands break Aldo ducks down to his bags and starts unpacking things. It goes unnoticed, but Aldo swats his hand afterward in the same way one would do to shake off an insect. “Maybe.”

“But I suppose all of this was merely one of those things that just... had to be. Otherwise, we never would’ve met at all.”

“You’re getting pretty deep into that.”

“Hm?”

“Us meeting by fate or whatever, which I don’t think is true. In my book, we met because you happened to be places. Scary how you did that.”

“I show up where I know I’m wanted, is all. It’s a natural ability of mine. Some would call it an extra sense-”

“Where you think  you’re wanted. Where you’d ideally like  to be wanted.”

“Did you just read my subtext successfully?” Again Hans looks astounded, but in a pleased way. “Oh, I like you so much, Aldo.”

There’s a pause that grows longer and longer.

“What does that mean?”

“I made that very clear in various ways, weren’t you listening? I’ve changed my opinion of you.”

“Uh, yeah, sure, but ‘like’. Like as in...”

“I like you as in I like you.”

“Yeah. I know. But how  do you like me.”

“Aldo, you’re asking me a question and I can tell from that look on your face you don’t even know what kind of answer you want.” Hans crosses his legs again and laces his fingers. “What do you want me to say? How do you want  to be liked?”

Aldo stands in a peculiar way, once again laden with thought, frozen with a pile of clothes and his sundries in his hands for one strange lapse in time. He feels distinctly as though the broader part of his mind has been invaded by some outward force, as if Hans can mind read. Navigating carefully around the pit he’s sinkholed himself into, he just says, “Never mind. Just drop it.”

“I like your personality. The one I, unfortunately, hadn’t the pleasure of meeting previously. I hadn’t even meant that romantically, ‘I like you’. I had meant... for example, the heated yet respectful way that one chess master would appreciate another in. That sort of like.”

“Good.”

Hans takes in every second of the relieved sounding breath Aldo makes. They don’t speak for several minutes, Aldo busying himself with menial tasks and Hans boring his eyes into the back of his head wherever he walks, imagining him being on a long fishing line. He then imagines himself slowly reeling the line back in and towards him as he surfaces his voice again, albeit it being quieter than before. It’s nonetheless imposing as it punctures the veil of silence.

“Aldo?”

“What?”

“Would it be a problem if I liked you that  way? This is hypothetical.”

Aldo balks, visibly flinching some. “Yeah.”

“Why?”

“Don’t really want people in my life that type of way.”

“I’m sure that if a lovely, well-kept lady said the same words to you you’d react much more affectionately.”

“Not even. I don’t have time for this stuff and subsequently I don't think about it much. Gonna need a few years."

"Understandable."

"And, uh. I’m outta practice, too.”

“Is that a joke? I can tell you know how to work a woman. What, with all of your charms and alluring flirting methods."

"Again. That shit wasn't flirting, and if it came across that way? Purely unintentional and just a side-effect of you being queer."

"If you insist," Hans says with a lofty chuckle. "What's this about you not having time, as well? I have my doubts anyone is clamoring for another World War and thus I’m lead to believe now you have more than enough time to settle down. You don’t even have long-distance plans yet.”

“Do you?”

“I take my exemplary photograph, I solve the problem that is my forehead, I live in my lovely little home. Maybe pick up a hobby or two. Perhaps when the dust settles I will take up a similar job to the one I had before, but that’s... Not worth thinking about now, it’s too far off. But yourself? Aside from sitting down, shutting up, growing a beard that wouldn't even look good on you and moving into Wall Street, Aldo Raine is going to...”

Aldo visibly tightens up, arms becoming stiffer. He feels an internal unsteadiness as the question ricochets back and hits him in the head again. Hans’ eyes consider him and his lack of response. Again, he feels some deep desire to walk over to Aldo and console him, perhaps indulge them both in a hug or something but he rather scratches his lip and thinks of how nonsensical the impulse to do so is.

“I’ll know when I get there.” Aldo clears his throat very gruffly. He looks down, readjusting to the world, and turns off the room lamp. “’Going to bed. There’s a loveseat over there. It's yours.”

“Oh, I can’t sleep on that. Imagine the cramps in the morning.” Making puppy eyes, Hans looks at the bed, then back at Aldo.

“Don’t even think about it.”

“But Mr. Raineeee...”

“No.”

“Okay, okay. Fine. I won’t, I promise.”

Hans attempts to lay down with Aldo, recoiling after harshly being nearly pushed onto the floor.

“What’d I fuckin’ say?”

“Do you have any idea what that chair will do to my back? Goodness. I’m already stiff as a board and that will not help.”

Ages of thoughtful quiet go by. “You touch me, you die. Alright?”

“Thank you.” Hans sits at the edge of the bed then, rather tentatively, and mellows when he’s not immediately kicked. When he’s certain he’s not being watched, he steps out of his pants gradually and takes off his tie. He clicks his tongue then, tutting as if he’s disappointed. “It really sounds as if you can’t decide whether you want to hate me or not. You say you don’t want me to, airquotes here, like you, but you’re all fidgety. No one gets that way about someone they hate. Have you changed your reception of me as well? Hm?”

“As much as I’d love to shoot the breeze with you about feelings and shit I am much too tired for this damn conversation. Now, you’re already pushing it by not being in that chair when I’m one hundred percent sure you don’t got any back problems. Lay. Off.”

“Maybe I do like you. You are... so intriguing with your terrible grammar and hyperAmerican facial features. I’m so fascinated with you on a deeper level than I thought I’d ever be. You’re so... endearing. You are so cute. So cute, Aldo.”

“Call me cute again and see what happens.”

“Wow. You don’t even like compliments, do you?”

“Sure I like em, just not ones like that. I ain’t cute.”

“Yes, you’re right. Not cute, how crude of me. You are... very  cute.”

“I’ll box all your fuckin’ fronts in.”

“See? You like me too. How am I able to elicit such strong reactions from you when I’m just saying words? You find me provocative.”

Aldo sounds more irritated now, voice somehow clearer than before: “You were serious about that, weren’t you. Being queer.”

“Do people lie about that sort of thing? Yes. It’s just arduous to find a man that is up to my standards. Despite this being so, I do like to experiment. I like finding out what I like. And, as we’ve established, I’ve done that.”

Aldo mutters to himself under his breath, harshly turning over.

Slowly Hans lays down, facing Aldo’s back. He can tell he’s as high-strung as he always is; his arms are at rest but wired in a way that suggest he’s ready to throw a body across the room should need arise. With a feather-light touch, Hans runs his index finger over the small of his shoulder, and then he palms at this area that’s sequestered between his shoulder and his neck that he takes a liking to. It’s soft. But he does none of this frivolously— rather delicately, waiting for responses. “Do you like me?”

“Fuck no I don’t.”

“You’re a bad liar. You lie prolifically and not well.”

Aldo swats Hans away which temporarily works, until he’s back not even a minute later with precise fingers skirting the exact same places. It’s uncannily soothing. “Listen. I told you not to touch me, and now you’re off doing it. I’m really about to throw your ass out if you don’t learn to respect my personal space. Keep it up.”

“You’ll do what with my ass? How do you intend to go about that? That sounds very sexual.”

“You know what I fuckin’ mean, fuckin’... smartass bitch.”

“I believe I prefer buttercup. So sweet and cute. Call me that again. It sounds so right with your voice.”

“Goodnight.

“Tch. Aldooooo.”

“What?”

“Are you always this moody at bedtime?”

“Yeah. I’ve had a long-ass day and I’m not in the mood to keep pandering you.”

“You’re just getting shy because I said I liked you. That’s it, isn’t it?”

No response.

"Well, I like you a lot. In a different way now."

Not knowing any clearly defined limits on what is and isn’t acceptable, Hans explores more of what he can. It feels like he’s reaching into the depths of oblivion when his hand goes under his shirt. Aldo makes a suppressed little grunt.
Hans tugs at the rim of Aldo’s shirt collar until there’s sufficient access to his shoulder, at which point he leans in. His lips make a soft sound upon contact and they linger for a while, ghosting kisses upward until he’s in all blatancy French kissing a particular spot on Aldo’s neck. He sucks hard enough to bruise- winning him another grunt- and then, kissing his jawline.

Aldo seems to decompress in a way, shoulders falling as if he’d finally exhaled after holding his breath for a week. But his voice becomes rough at its edges; “Landa, I’ll- you fuckin’– get off me before I gut your sorry ass.”

“You don’t dislike this.”

“Landa.”

“This may be our last night together on the account that you suddenly hate me so much. I need to... emphasize that.” Hans takes a rather deep breath, picturing himself taking all the air out of Aldo’s lungs, then blowing it out directly upon the spot he bruised. He can feel Aldo’s hands clench, feel him trembling. “Make you come to terms with that. Make you feel... bad about it. Make sure you’ll miss me and be... apologetic, mm? Hm?”

Aldo doesn’t acknowledge that.

Hans assumes it’s the hard fist of militant discipline coming into play. Self-restraint and such dreck. Although, with the right wording, Aldo was much more benevolent before. There’s a wall of caginess- perhaps of pride- impeding everything good. Maybe it’s the thing about their titles. So to speak, for some reason, Aldo still considers himself an active Lieutenant and Hans still a Colonel, he thinks.
How disappointing, he also thinks.
As far as Hans is concerned, his and their past together has begun to dethread itself. He’s very much still pulling his face off the forest floor, beyond alive with the realization he’s going to have a swastika on his forehead the rest of his permanently blotched life and still working his way around that, trying to move on from it, but most of the other little occurrences he’s throwing over his shoulder heedlessly. He justifies the thought by standing behind the fact it’s essentially true- he isn’t SS anymore, hasn’t been, never really considered himself to be from the start despite his affection for the uniforms. He is not the infamous Jew Hunter anymore, he is merely Hans Landa. Hans Landa going about delicate interpersonal business after clean-slating his life. Curious and piqued, self-indulgent, aroused, somewhat impulsive, hot-blooded— much like Aldo is, without a shadow of a doubt, although he is much better at concealing it. It’s not as if there's anyone left to rather be in Hans’ place right now, so how to deconstruct the proverbial wall? Over, under, or through?

Through.

Hans visualizes himself with a sledgehammer in hand as he runs his lips over the bruised spot, moaning softly. Aldo tenses and he visualizes himself knocking three bricks out of the wall.

“I’d be so bold to think you may even... like this.” Hans says, slowly and quietly. There is a subtle yet far-reaching demureness coloring his words. It’s passive, yet simultaneously so low. So seeking. Aldo doesn’t like what it’s doing to his brain.

Hans punctuates his words with another deep kiss to the back of Aldo’s neck. There’s a delicate art of convincing Americans to do something they don’t want to do, and it’s centric around passivity and kindness, he’s often found. There’s a dark mole just where the curve of his neck begins, and Aldo must know about it as he shudders hard when Hans presses another audible kiss onto it.

“But I wonder how much  you like this.”

Looping around his side, Hans’ hand reaches downward, stealing blindly into the dark until he’s met with something warm, something– softer than he’d anticipated. It’s what he expected of an American, really. Average. Perhaps a few centimeters longer than he is, if that. Aldo isn’t fully stiff yet, which doesn’t surprise him. He takes ample time running his palm up and down the shaft memorizing every part of it. He visualizes himself knocking nine bricks out of the wall with one languid swing.

“Mmm.”

Aldo inhales and exhales.

In truth, there’s been a bit of neglect downstairs for the last couple of years. More like denial, and everything Hans is doing has him on edge now. It’s embarrassing, but Aldo doesn’t mind the feeling of the slow rub he’s getting- what kills him is that it’s a Nazi. It’s a Nazi who’s giving him a handjob through his clothes which is unfortunately one of those things he likes, and so he attempts muscle up and fight the gravity in his stomach, fists clenched and teeth grit, but it’s almost like that makes him more aware of the feeling.
For the better half of the last ten minutes he’d been intensely trying to will it away by thinking of the worst, most depraved shit he could; anything that could sufficiently disturb him enough to stay within the security of turned offedness. It’d been working, somewhat, but he feels his blood pooling at his waist with every stroke now and it’s becoming harder and harder to mitigate. Aldo can feel a foreleg pressed against his, the unusual prickly feeling of hair that’s thankfully been seldom in his life, and yet it’s somehow very intimate and private-feeling and he doesn’t know why for the life of him he hasn’t just shoved himself backwards and sent Hans flying off the bed. The impulse refuses to serve, and he’s left stagnant.

“Aldo,” Hans says, voice still soft. “Talk to me. It’s like I can hear you thinking.” The void of response is just slightly infuriating, but Hans has a clue what it implies.

Hans knows that if he does it too fast he’ll be flown across the room, and thus he is slow in how he pulls Aldo back by his shoulder so that he’ll be laid down flat. It’s interesting, the look he’s given once their eyes affix; it’s thoroughly new and eludes any description. It’s extremely verbal- the way Aldo’s eyes half-lid, how he sucks in his bottom lip for a moment, breathes out. It’s rhythmic and seems almost calculated.
It leads Hans into feeling something like pleasant embarrassment, him internally likening it to how a schoolgirl might feel after meeting her crush’s eyes. Moving upward, he swings his leg over Aldo’s waist and straddles him.

Hans fits on top of his body like a glove, and all at once the bed has enough space to support them both comfortably. There’s enough discrepancy in weight and height for him to be noticeable, yet not bulky.

“Landa,” Aldo says, after a very pronounced pause. He says it in a stilted way, as if doing so is some ordeal for him. He sounds lethargic, distracted.

“Yes?”

“...Landa.”

“What is it?”

Aldo says nothing.

“You know... I’d offer to ride you like this,” Hans whispers, taking glee in the jolt he feels against his thigh. “And I think you’d like that. Up, down. Up, down.”

“Landa,” Aldo warns.

“But unfortunately, my legs aren’t what they used to be. So we’ll have to improvise.”

Laying down, Hans sidles his face into a warm spot in the crook of Aldo’s shoulder. He sighs, moving his hand downward slowly to where it’s then palming around blindly. He’s more than somewhat bothered by his lack of usual expertise in this area– how many times he’s felt someone up, he’s lost count by now, but Aldo is simply unique and absurd. He’s unusual, impossible, such a polar opposite from every partner he’s had before. He’s not moving, but somehow still the power of the room.

“Landa.”

“Tell me. You have to talk to me, Aldo.”

Hans tries to stifle down a shudder he feels coming on, but it runs through his shoulders the second he palms at Aldo’s length again. He pulls at it through the soft fabric, once to test the waters and breathes out in surprise before he can hold it in.

“Oh, wow. I... well, that’s different.”

Which is not what he wanted to say– what he did was long ago lost in translation between his brain and his mouth. The statement stands intact, though; he assumes this must be Aldo at full hardness. One more thing to keep him disparate from his other partners, he thinks, emptily. And he thinks he’s gotten away with saying a stupid thing, but Aldo laughs.

He laughs a viciously amused little chuckle.

“That’ll happen, yeah. Kind of the way it goes.”

And again, just like that, the invisible scoreboard is flipped on its head.

Hans feels himself melting. He imagines his essence collecting on the floor and someone stepping in it.

“Something wrong?”

“No. No?” Hans’ eyebrows furrow, then knit, then furrow again, as if he’s not sure which is most suitable. He worries he sounds dumb as he says: “I thought it would... Not- no. I- Okay. Lord. I can’t even speak.”

“Use your words.”

“Just as a general question, Aldo, do all American men-?”

“Yep.”

Not that he knows that for sure, but it’s worth it to lie just to see the nonplussed look on Hans’ face.

Hans’ lips purse evenly, one over the other. He looks off to the side, clears his throat. His eyes narrow, but not to the point of indicating suspicion. There’s a mistrustful hint of something in his aura, inquisitive eyes like the ones Aldo remembers. He’s thinking. Aldo can’t recall anyone he’s ever met that he was able to see thinking, taking things apart. With every rise and fall of his chest a hot, warm breath is exuded, and he’s not unlike a finely-tuned machine regulating itself while processing a new belt of information. To see the same look in such a widely different context begets a unclear, muddy kind of feeling; the memories he has that include Hans that he hasn’t completely purged from mind traverse freely around his skull a bit, and he wonders if this one night would eventually trample the rest in enough time.

Then Aldo’s doing a thing he feels like he might regret years or even minutes later; he’s moving his arm upward and brushing over Hans’ top lip with his thumb. It’s gentle, unhurried, and for the first time he doesn’t feel immediately conflicted or guilty. Hans, though, can feel his mind running on half normal power, and he plants a small kiss against the pad of his thumb.

“That’s...” Hans begins in a hush, and Aldo swears if he’d so much as blinked too loud he wouldn’t have caught it.

“Makes Nantucket sound all the more exciting, right?”

“...I never would have known.”

“You’ve never had a real man in your life, then.”

Hans hopes his mind won’t soar too far with the images that sentence gives him, but it does, and he’s then pondering each induvidual word on four different levels. Something deep within his core drops to the ground and shatters into trillions of unrepairable pieces.

“No... I suppose I haven’t.”

“’Course.”

“But believe me when I say I never, at any point, thought you to be anything other than a real man.”

“See, now that’s what I like. There’s a compliment that suits me much better than ‘cute’.”

“You don’t need to be told you are a real man,” Hans says, his voice seeming to shift between emotions the further into the sentence he goes. He kisses Aldo’s thumb again, longer this time, making sure it makes a noise. “You simply are one. Everyone knows.”

“Oh yeah?” Aldo says, cupping his chin and tilting his face upwards. “Well, ‘came all this way, so might as well ask. What do you wanna do with this real man, then?”

“...I want... would like, a kiss.”

“That’s it? Don’t got to. Helps set the mood, but.”

“A well-set mood is indispensable, no?”

“Mm, I dunno. Depends. What do we say?”

“Please.”

“Say it like you mean it.”

“Please?”

“Much better. Good girl.”

Hans closes his eyes, rolls his tongue over the roof of his mouth, takes a deep breath, and then says something under his breath in German.

Purposelessly, Aldo’s fingers find themselves running through Hans’ hair, and he finds it somewhat like petting a cat. His hair is soft, softer than a Nazi’s should be. He’s not attracted to Hans in the slightest, but there’s something about his resilience and this new side of him that apparently exists- this uncharacteristic sort of calm- that’s making him think all kinds of... thoughts. He’s left shaking his head as if it’ll rid him of them. Hans presses into the touch.

“Hoping that means something good.”

“I said I liked that. Moreso than I do buttercup. I couldn’t hope to explain why.”

“You like being called a girl, huh?”

“Oh, shh. When you put it that way, it sounds so.... crude. I like your use of feminine terminology, not being called a-”

“I thought you wanted to be my girl. Kissing my neck and shit.”

Hans moans through closed lips at that, a low and long sound coming from the pit of his stomach. If it had been in any other circumstance he’d have easily snapped Aldo’s wrist backward for ruffling his hair as he is doing now, but he also considers the fact that nobody’s ever done that. Aldo is the only person who’s ever worked up the stones to even attempt it, and Hans feels smaller than himself. He lets his hair be ruffled, then fixed, closing his eyes and leaning the weight of his head against the hand.

Aldo decides he’s not doing much with his other hand anyway, so he raises his thumb to the soft reddish pink of Hans’ lips again, crossing over them. Hans still hasn’t bothered opening his eyes and he’s begun to seem all too catlike, so Aldo decides to then test something he’s been vaguely directing his mental attention to every other bundle of seconds.

“Open your eyes.”

It’s slow, but it happens. “Something to look at?”

“Nah. Just gotta make sure you remember how to follow orders.”

“What for— oh, fuck.”

Aldo can feel him throb.

“Seems like you can only listen when it gets you stiff.”

“Don’t say things like that. I feel them in my stomach.”

“For someone who does a shit-ton of teasing you can’t take what you deal whatsoever.”

“It’s not that I can’t take it. I simply have a... very fertile and very undisciplined imagination.”

“What do you get from me calling you a girl? Eh?”

“The idea that you consider me to be feminine, which is so... I’ve never- No one’s dared- No one would even think to say something like that to me. It’s so different.”

“I thought you had guys up the ass every other day of your professional life.”

“It was a rare indulgence.”

“No shit?”

“Like I said, I have high standards. What I look for in a person is so incredibly specific. I can’t even describe it to you. You either are or you aren’t.”

“So I meet your standards.”

“Well, I- I-” Hans clicks his tongue, looks to the side. His face colors faintly. “I surprise myself too, Aldo. I didn’t know I’d be interested in you two hours ago.”

“It’s not that surprising, I guess. Can’t imagine you getting bent by anyone who looks at you twice.”

“I don’t get bent much at all. I don’t like giving people power over me.”

“So that means that I could, in theory, talk you out of this, although you’re very obviously rock hard. Like, shit. My leg’s being stabbed.”

Hans nods slowly, not looking at him. “Power is never given. It’s taken.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Mhm...”

“Think I’m starting to get it now. Close your eyes.”

Hans complies.

“’Bout that kiss, then... I’m trusting that you’ll keep your mouth shut bout it?”

“But my mouth needs to be open. Like this.”

He pushes himself forward, both hands cupping Aldo’s face as he presses into the kiss. Yes, Aldo’s lips are less-than-desirably dry and cracked, but it’s not as if that was unexpected. He makes up for it within the motions of his tongue, how he pulls Hans closer onto his lap in a single stroke of his arms- who attempts to rut against his length, winning a series of grunts embedded in the kiss.

Aldo’s more reserved than Hans is; the latter’s form of kissing is more impassioned, more searching, but the former writhes around with an uncomfortable knot of tension that’s still left over from war-mode Nazi adversity. Until Hans grinds against him and makes this barely audible noise into the kiss that abruptly makes it work, and the image of Hans within his mind begins to disassociate from itself.

When they pause for air, Hans mumbles out, “God. You taste so... G- Get the... the lubricant. It’s in my... it’s in my coat.”

“Lube?” Aldo turns his head in an innocent way, blissfully unaware smile crossing his face. “What for?”

“You, you know what for.”

“Uh... nah, don’t reckon I do.”

“You want me to say it, don’t you.”

“Say what?”

“Aldo!”

“I’m just sayin’ I don’t know why you want me to get outta this comfy little nook I’m in just so I can walk all the way over to the coat hanger and-”

“I want you to fuck me. Please. Happy? Happy now?”

With a complacent smile, Aldo slides out from under Hans and rises. “Very. Also, uh. You didn’t come here with that for any specific reasons, right?”

“I’ve always been... so opportune and providential. No, I promise.”

“So... looking here, you carry lube but you don’t carry rubber. That’s very suggestive.”

“Mind your business, Apache.”

“I could write a whole dissertation on the amount’a things that statement implies, Landa. I think you’re busier than you wanna admit. Kinky shit.”

“You seem very concerned with my sex life.”

“Ain’t like I’m a part of it now or something.”

“You’re not going to be a part of it unless you get back over here and finish what you started.”

That Aldo does.

There’s multitudes of sensations all cycling through Hans at once, and he’s physically shaking. He’s never been good at composure when his particular wants are exploited; he gets all worked up, starts loosening and focuses on the smallest of details. How warm this mouth is, how much better of a kisser Aldo is, how carefully he’s being turned over. But it’s so slow that it’s beyond subtle until his head is against the pillow, hair spreading across it in thick contrast and he’s given a moment to breathe when their mouths break in the process.

“Hmm,” Aldo says, primming his lips in a way that reads of approval. “Look at you.”

“What?”

“Nothing much. ‘Cept the fact you’re gonna rip your own shorts off if you don’t calm down.”

“I’m not as, urm, aroused as I seem.”

“It’s like a steel pole. Look at how much you’re stretching out the waistband. Shit. Thing’s gonna be two sizes up when I take it off.”

“When–” Again, Hans makes a throaty sound and fidgets, visibly throbbing. “Mmmmmhmhmm.”

“Is it always like that?”

“No, it’s been a while since Hans Junior has seen the light of day.”

“Hans Landa, you will never refer to your rod as Hans Junior in my company ever again, lest there be hell to pay as consequence,” Aldo commands, switching to his broad military-speaking voice. He tries to stop smiling when Hans keels over with laughter, but finds himself unable to for the first time. “Do I make myself clear?”

“You’re absurd.”

“Never heard of a man giving his cock a name. Legs up.”

Hans clears his throat five times, all needlessly. “So, anyway. You know, I’m, I’m very happy,” he begins as he feels his briefs being worked off, speaking entirely to assuage his nervousness; “Very pleased. This could be the start of a flourishing, luxuriant relationship. I never could have ever imagined any of this. Haha. This is– it’s somewhat embarrassing. Definitely definitely definitely embarrassing. You must understand how out of practice I am. Isn’t it the same for you? This has barely been a thought. I have those sexual thoughts, you know, but there’s... I shouldn’t have told you that, should I?”

“Shh.”

Hans hears the vat being opened and talks faster: “I- I will admit. I have, on occasion, had some thoughts about you. Like that. Sexual ones. You were always such a spectacle to me in some regard. I rejected them, at first. I didn’t like you whatsoever and I thought my mind was confused. You, you know, I– I adore— how you are. I always have, I think. How you simply... are. I think that you—” His right leg is pushed upwards to bundle them together and his heart leaps; “Aldo. Aldo. Wait.”

Aldo forces his legs apart in a way that was obviously more forceful than intended, and Hans gasps in surprise, instinctively covering himself.

Lord, Aldo!”

“Shit. Sorry ‘bout that. Usually don’t do missionary.”

“What... do you do, then?”

“Uh. Not missionary?”

“No, no- tell me what you do.”

“I like tables and walls. All I’m gonna say.”

“My God. You’re so dirty.”

“What was that you said? ‘I like to enjoy myself’?”

“I see, I see. I think we've decided on plans for tomorrow, yes?”

“Might take some time, more than you’ve got. Thought you got a flight to catch.”

“I don’t care about it anymore. This is much more... imperative to me now.”

“Is that right. I might change my mind in that case. Depends on how this goes, sweetheart.”

“Oh. Sweetheart.”

“You like that one too?”

“I like all of them. They make me so happy.”

“I’m glad. Shh, now.”

Hans watches him dip a finger into the vat and pull it out, eyes blown wide. He then blurts, “Aldo-”

“Talkative type in bed too, I guess? If I didn’t know any better I’d be thinking you’re a virgin.”

“I- no, I haven’t done this in-”

“Shh. Why don’t you let me focus for a minute and we’ll talk a little later?”

Hans nods weakly, dazedly.

It’s as if he becomes hypersensitive to tactile sensations in mere seconds when he feels Aldo’s finger press up against him, and he’s robbed of all coherent thought for one space in time. His form slinks back against the mattress from the miniature arch it was in, and he fidgets a bit.

“Relax.”

“Trying. I’m trying.”

His eyes flutter between being open and shut and he desperately wrenches his hands around into the sheets when the finger starts pushing in and out of him. He’s desperately attempting to regroup and still himself when there’s another finger ever so casually accompanying the first one, soundlessly and unannounced. When it’s up to speed with the first, Hans is tensing everywhere, lulling his head back and making the whine to end all whines and squirming much more than he was before.

Aldo scoffs to himself and tries to tease him about it; “Aw, yeah. There we go. Work it for me, baby.” And he vows he was joking, but the invigorated look he receives combined with the moan alongside it suggests it wasn’t received how he’d intended.

“You’re blushing, buttercup.”

“Oh. Oh no.”

Aldo strokes his thigh with his free hand and covertly slips another finger inside. It is undoubtedly noticed. “Cherry red.”

“Stop, stop. Stop stop stop stop stop. Your flirting is so cute. You are so cute. My God, Aldo. I think I’m starting to love you.”

His suave tone that he has in any other instance of normality is barely there, suppressed by something much softer and silkier. There’s something happening in his mind; that light flirty feeling is enclosing his emotions, and his preconceptions about Aldo are just out of reach enough for him to bathe in the warm waters of the moment without question. Which he does, and he hears the bedside lamp cord being pulled down.

“As much as I’d love to keep the electric bill for this room low as it can be, I, uh... See, I’m getting an urge to see that blush of yours a little better.

“Ah, ah.” The words haze Hans’ mind through and through, curl his toes and have him giggling. A grin spans his face and he’s driven to cover it with his hands. “See? I get shy when you say things like that. Don’t tease me. I’m the one who does the teasing.”

“Not right now you don’t. Right now, you keep quiet. Can you do that for me?”

“I can promise you nothing of the sort.”

“Promise me, then. I can’t take care of my girl if she’s getting in my way.”

Accompanying the bone-deep satisfaction of hearing those words in that order, Hans’ stomach sinks to an again trenchal depth and he’s left laughing for a moment, then reaching for the vat. “Could I, um.”

“Jerk off? No sir. Not yet.” Before Hans can speak up, he continues: “Might change my mind if you get that off you, though.”

“Aldooooo.”

“It’s a good deal.”

Gingerly unbuttoning, Hans works his dress shirt off his arms. His vulnerability’s amped, and he feels distinctly like every cleft of him is being mapped when Aldo’s hands run up and down his sides. Every calloused mark on his hands, Hans can feel. He counts them, closes his eyes and tries to visualize them. Whimpers out helplessly when Aldo’s thumbs circle around his nipples, moaning at another comment about how girlish he is. Breathes slowly, but cannot help the audible hitch when he can hear a slicked stroking noise, and he takes several deep breaths to soothe himself. Lets his armor be pierced and then shattered when Aldo is there, pushing into him, so slowly– almost unnecessarily so, like he is a delicate thing that would be easily broken if handled too rough.

There’s a glint of actual warmth deep in Aldo’s eyes that he’s only seen once or maybe twice before, and his heart is pounding double time.

Neither say anything for a few minutes, Hans trying desperately to make up for the fact that his mind is slinking into a corner by matching Aldo’s movements, moving his hips in accordance with the thrusts to the best of his ability. It takes some time to adjust to the extra stretching that the prep didn’t account for, and being rung out like this from the inside does sing in a melody that his bruises polyphonize with, but Hans mellows against the thought that this is likely just his real retribution for past actions: a pleasure accompanied by pain. Aldo keeps asking if anything hurts, and he keeps denying it.
It’s so rare that Hans lets himself be vulnerable in any situation at all, and now he sinks into it to explore it. He unwires his arms and loosens his legs, wresting his head deep into the pillow and moans as shamelessly as he pleases. Aldo grunts as if to express his approval.

Time passes. Each thrust becomes slower than the last and each drawback more gradual until Hans is moaning along each individual jab, the pace searing throughout his torso and resonating deeply, fully. Whenever he believes he has the rhythm understood and attempts to move with him, Aldo does something; changes his angle, hoists Hans’ waist higher. He’s even omnipresent-feeling in this; all steel and nerves that refuse to bend, let alone break.

Somehow, Aldo already knows what he’s about to say seconds before he’s even opened his mouth. Hans’ attention to detail shines a bright spotlight on the defined stutter under every other word he says; “You want me to hurry up and pull your back out already, don’t you?”

“I do. But this is so– tender.” His breath is stolen from him with a particularly longer than usual thrust, and he swallows. “Please tell me this is not the last time we’ll do this.”

“You know me. I got me a busy schedule, buttercup. But so do you. You got yourself a nice little house now, scenic little place to spend your days in till you find a guy to settle down with. A future daughter to have somehow. A makeup consultant you ought to see ASAP.”

Hans laughs, though he doesn’t find anything funny. A moment passes of Hans exhaling and the bedframe singing.

“When we’re done, the... the animosity will return, won’t it? Aldo. I’m going to remember this. And I’m never going to get over it, either, and therefore I’ll... never be able to... have another you. You... you are... you are...”

“Breathe, buttercup.”

“...The only you, and I can never have you because you refuse to cooperate.”

“Plenty of good cock floating around out there.”

“I am... not that superficial.”

“I’m saying no for a good reason. No way in hell we could ever do anything and not have it look suspicious. That, and, really. I don’t think I could get up to too much of this and look myself square in the mirror.”

“We could meet in private... or pay people to be quiet. I know you know people.”

“Not that easy.”

“But you know you could. You just–”

“You’re wasting air, buttercup. Shh. Focus on breathing.”

“But you-”

“Shh.”

“Listen to me–”

Instead of listening to what he then says, carefully yet with haste, Aldo rings his arms around Hans’ back and scoops him upward, moving back just enough to sit on his knees. He’s lighter than anticipated. Before Hans can comment, Aldo presses forward, affixing them in a kiss, and slowly raising him up and down once he has the opportunity to insert.
The momentum buildup is faster than the previous position and he’s at the hilt in seconds, and Hans is left scrambling for purchase anywhere; digging his nails into Aldo’s back and wrapping his forelegs around him to have any semblance of balance. The kiss becomes entirely tactless; a messy, saliva-infested thing, and when it’s broken Aldo returns the hickies he was given, overlaying them onto his neck- although his are much more frequent and deeper in color. Hans is unable to verbalize anything that isn’t a loose suggestion of German blended with occasional English. And he's loud when applicable, openly accepting that it's no longer something he has control over.

Aldo strains to keep audible composure when he speaks up again, forcing his voice to be level. “Why don’t you be a good girl and get yourself off? Huh? You look like you might die if I don’t let you.”

“I want... you... to do it.”

“’Gotta have everything done for you, huh? Gonna drop you if I try.”

Hans, in a very pettish voice, cries out in German and Aldo finds it the cutest thing he’s heard in a while. He’s not given a translation, but he doesn’t think he needs one anyway. He subtracts his right arm, feels blindly around for the vat and regardless lets Hans down gently onto his back, bypassing the frustrated little whine he hears.

When that same slicked hand from before is wrapped around Hans’ length a minute shiver dashes up his spine, resulting in an arch. Any attempt at stillness unravels into threads at that, and Hans is left squirming up against him.

“What do you want?”

“Hurry. Hurry.”

“Hurry with what?”

“Aldo, please. Please. Not now. Please.”

“Tell me what you want me to do.”

“I...”

“Come on, baby.”

“I, I want you to fuck me. Now. Right now. Hard. I want you to put all of your, your anger into it. All of it. Don’t hold back.”

Aldo eyes him with a sated, content smile. “Yeah,” he says, slowly, his voice as illuminant as solid gold. “What do we say?”

“Please. Please please please please please.” Hans says, accent rearing its head strongly and his mind awash with soft-pink delirium. He feels liquid and slow like he’s moving through a body of water, although he knows physically he’s trembling again and much worse than before. Aldo, though, is structured like an arsenal and has barely twitched. He hates the contrast because it makes him feel weaker than he already does, but he also loves it for the same reason.

With a tender sigh, Aldo slips himself back inside, seamlessly, wordlessly, right back at the speed from before, unchanged and constant- although the pace buildup for the hand stroking Hans is much more gradual and he’s left writhing desperately, pushing out a hoarse plea for more. More and mehr, until a threshold is reached where he’s saying an amalgam of both. He breathes deeply alongside every stroke, measuring his breaths to maximize his endurance.

“Getting an idea,” Aldo mumbles. “Making you take all of it instead of pulling out.”

“God, I- hmn- Aldo-"

“’Till it’s- fuck, it's- running down your legs.”

Hans makes a sound Aldo would term a whimper followed by something that defies description.

“You want that? Cause I don’t wanna- make a mess of you.”

Hans breathes a ‘ja’.

"What was that?"

Another crabby whine follows a frustrated grunt; "Ja, ich sagte ja!"

And with a pleased nod Aldo is stroking at the pace he’s thrusting, and there’s this nigh immediate strong contraction of Hans’ abdominal muscles which leaves him violently short of breath. It’s so unreserved and sudden that he’s unable to really speak or think until that same contracting feeling hits again, exception being that it now feels volcanic; heat pooling around his groin— and then his waist is quivering, he’s practically in convulsions, and he’s biting the inside of his lower lip raw until he tastes blood. There's salt running into his scars, but the burn is entirely surmounted by the next thing he feels-

“Let me know when you’re gonna–”

His stomach sinks again, and that's it. Hans is able to fork out one broken-sounding and uncompleted cry until he’s gone, parasailing in heaven as Aldo urges him on with little utterances of encouragement and assorted pet names.

The world takes on the appearance of a watercolor painting, fuzzy at the edges. Time is a blurry visage, moving in a syrupy, unhurried way until Aldo groans generously, his voice velvety and throaty. It’s a gorgeous sound and Hans forces himself out of the ether to admire it, feeling a hot pulse running through his stomach as he feels narrow streaks of come; gentle, warm. Foreign. He shudders some, covering his mouth with both hands.

He has a vague thought that is largely indistinguishable from the rest of the multilingual word soup inside of his head; a thought that says, again, he has been marked. Branded. In a different way, but it’s all the same. If his swastika is meant to represent his subordination to the SS, then this means he’s now Aldo’s.

One limb at a time, everything loses internal feeling.

“I- Oh. Oh wow. Oh wow, my legs. Oh wow, they- wow. Ah, um.”

“Numb?”

“Yes. Yes.”

“Well, now. Feels tingly and weird?”

“Mmmhmmm.”

“Don’t move em. Keep still.”

“Um...”

“Uh-huh?”

“Your hair is... pretty when it’s messy.”

“That’s sweet. Thanks. Get a good look now cause I was just on my way to see about fixin’ that.”

"Wait, sorry... Sorry I didn't..."

"It's alright."

Once the buzzing in his mind has adequately lessened, Aldo rubs feeling into his thighs and stands up off the bed when he’s able, arching in a long-needed stretch. He retrieves a towel from the bathroom, snatching a quick glance at himself in the elaborate wall mirror. He looks distinctly fucked. He tries to slink his mind to other things as he washes his hands, splashes cool water against his face and re-gels his hair to its previous immaculacy, but he can’t close his eyes for half a second without seeing Hans, downcast lashes and face turned deep into the pillow like it’s the only thing his entire brain has to offer.

He can hear Hans tossing and turning in the other room, the sound of the bedframe creaking tellingly accompanied by the occasional ‘hic’ sound. Aldo clears his throat, blinks at himself, and pulls himself back into the world. Sighs, throws on something clean, walks back out. “Didn’t I tell you not to move?”

“Uuuuuuuuuggggggh.”

“What’s the matter?”

“Nothing,” Hans responds, but the voice doesn’t particularly sound like his. It is his voice, undoubtedly, but it lacks the vocal and likeable aura his words normally radiate. It’s damp, tired.

In the next moment there’s a lukewarm complimentary towel between his legs, and the softness of it eases the inordinate numbness that he didn’t even know his entire lower half was in. Out of some feeling of necessity, Aldo pulls him into a kiss that leaves him beyond breathless, Hans quietly mumbling pretty little words into it. He supposes this is the highest intimacy they’ll ever actually have.
Hans is tightly held in place as the towel moves over his stomach. Everything becomes simplified; color and sound only. He’s humming something that sounds like a song he knew as a child. He’s offered water from the hip flask and he drinks until he starts coughing.

“I hadn’t expected you to be in favor of aftercare.”

“That hurts.”

“Well, I- I don’t mean that in a bad way-” Again Hans hiccups, before quickly covering his mouth.

“Hey.”

“...Yes?”

“There’s no chance that you, uh... catch a case of the hiccups every time you get off, right?”

“Noooo, don't- don't do that. Oh, come on. I was hoping you wouldn’t mention it,” Hans stammers quietly from behind his hands. It’s small and sounds pathetic, his voice curving upwards at the end. It fails spectacularly as a deterrent. “I hate it.”

“Just another thing I never coulda seen coming. It’s nice, don’t worry.”

“No. It’s not. You know it’s not. You don’t have to placate me, I'm aware of my flaws."

"Who says it's a flaw? Shit's cute to me."

"Oh, so I'm cute and you aren't now? The hypocrisy with you, Aldo."

“I'm being serious. It’s very, y'know, conspicuous,” Aldo starts- Hans takes note of how the word fails to penetrate the thick slog of his accent and he mispronounces it. “Should I ever catch you walking around sounding like a jammed toaster I’ll know you’ve been busy with yourself.”

And then Hans is groaning and covering his face, but laughing regardless. “Did you really just say that?”

“Wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true.”

“I-” Hic.

“Yep, that's that. You do the loud ones, too. Jesus.”

Hans covers his head with his pillow.

“By the way, uh. ‘Case you were curious... counted. Congratulations on fifty-seven seconds.”

“...You are so good,” Hans says, his voice lavish and low despite the muffled quality of it. Aldo tries not to think about it too hard, but he can feel its effect elsewhere. “Imagine eating rations for years and then having filet mignon out of nowhere. Of course I am going to... react.”

“Oh, wow. I’m a wholeass steak. Never been told that after sex. I’m that good, buttercup?”

“Mhm.”

“You’re not a bad fuck yourself. Here. I’m gonna lend you a pair of shorts, but you can’t keep ‘em. Got that?”

“Could I have a shirt, too? Please?”

“Sure thing.”

Hans sits upright despite the grinding pain of doing so and lets himself be dressed. “Did you know I have a very prolonged endurance? I can go for fifteen minutes on a normal circumstance. And you, somehow, quite miraculously I think, pushed me down to... not even one. Not one.”

“Fifteen? You’re sensitive as hell.”

“I’m not normally.”

“That just means you’ve fucked with a bunch of amateurs. ‘Think I’m your first professional.”

Hans pauses, steeping and unsteeping his fingers in a way that splays out indecision. “...Likely so. My word, where were you when I was five foot seven.”

“I— Five foot seven?”

“Five foot seven.”

“Five foot seven?”

“I know, I know.”

“I refuse to believe that. How much taller are you now?”

“I haven’t grown by very much. If you had two photographs for a comparison of sorts you’d have to squint to see any disparity. I just... fill it out very well. You see? That, and I simply exude the dominance that a tall person may have already. I don’t need-” hic– “...to be tall. For example, watch this.” Hans does it again; straightens everything out, formalizes internally, deadens the glee in his eyes and produces a familiar look that is, Aldo will admit, somewhat unsettling- until he hiccups.

“Very domineering, buttercup.”

“You- you get the idea. That last part was improvised. It doesn’t usually work. I’m thinking about removing it. Permanently,” Hans throws the last word on and beats his chest once, hard. He hiccups again and sighs impatiently, Aldo snickers.

Following a heavy silence and unbroken eye contact between them that for the first time is not awkward, they lay down together, mattress dipping deep under their combined weight. Their forms curve into each other so as to make space.

Hans starts to say something in English, but it dissolves into blissful sounding German in seconds. He yawns and mumbles more.

“It’s about time you slept. You’re wiped.”

“Not yet. I wanted to tell you something. I had an idea...”

“Yeah?”

“Hans Raine. It has a lovely ring to it, doesn’t it? The phonetics are perfect.”

“Go to sleep.”

“Okay, okay.” Hans is quiet for two minutes, and then, “Would you consider Tennessee a good place to raise a child?”

“I think I turned out fine. Why?”

“I need to know where our future daughter is going to go to school, of course!”

“Goodnight, Hans.”

“I’m being serious. What should we name her?”

“You are rushing the absolute shit out of this.”

“Something American, yes? There are endless lists of lovely German girls’ names, you know. But that would look strange in the west.”

“When did we get married? Are we married? Why are we talking about this already?”

“The actions of today are the-” hic– “...consequences of tomorrow.”

“Nope. I’m going to tell you what’s going to happen. You’re going to go to sleep, I’m gonna go to bed, and then in the morning we ain’t gonna talk about this hypothetical daughter of ‘ours’. And then I’m going home, and so are you. Got that?”

Hans sits quietly for a moment again before rolling over, throwing his arm over Aldo’s chest and simultaneously using it as a pillow. “Then I will find you.”

“What if I make myself real hard to find?”

“You underestimate me, Aldo.”

“I could just vanish off to Australia for a couple months. Say it’s business or get stationed there. Not tell anybody where I’m going. Can’t track me that far without no coordinates.”

“I will not need coordinates. I will be waiting in Melbourne with a pair of margaritas for the both of us.”

“Say I’m not in Melbourne.”

“Then I will be real stalkerish in the bush.”

“What if I ain’t stopping by the bush? Who says I need bush in my life?”

“You clearly don’t considering you just had sex with me.”

Aldo fails to withhold a brief laugh. “Shut up.”

“If you are not in the ‘bush’, then I will ruthlessly shake down the locals for a tall, very easily distinguishable American who would never be able to disguise his accent as Australian if you gave him a million years to do so.”

“Damn.”

“I refuse to back down from any game of international tag! It’s my favorite kind of tag.”

“Say... I’m not there at all. How about after that whole goose chase it turns out I was actually at home the entire time reading up on world events.”

“With our daughter?”

“Suuuuure thing.”

“Then I will come home, sit on your lap, and have some of your world-class... moonshine.”

It’s as if Hans struck the right chord, for a long and deep laugh is pulled out of Aldo. Hans mellows, feeling the laugh reverberate through his chest. It feels like a reward when an arm is slid around his shoulder, pulling him significantly closer and finally creating adequate space on the bed.

Hans can feel himself glowing. His arm is so warm.

“Whew. You are a dumbass.”

“I made you laugh!”

“You did. ’Know something? I like you more this way.”

“When I’m tired.”

“That’s right, buttercup.”

“When I wake up, before you inevitably toss me out, can you call me that again? Just once.”

“I’m not tossing you out. I’m gonna go downstairs, book another night, you’re gonna have a shower, and then we’re gonna have breakfast. And, yeah, but only if you’re out cold in the next minute.”

Hans foresees himself falling asleep before he can begin to retaliate that. And for a moment he sits in indecisive pause, mind skimming over whether what he wants to say next would be a good idea for the long run. Oh, well. He nestles deeper into the embrace, hoping it’ll shield him from the repercussions that lay ahead; “Goodnight, Aldie. I love you.”

He counts while pinching himself to stay awake, and it takes four entire minutes of silence before Aldo returns a hushed “’Love you, too.” It’s followed by a rather defensive sounding “’Nazi fuck.”

“Did you know our names have the exact same amount of letters in them? I’m thinking our daughter should also have a four-letter name. Maybe some sort of combination of both of our names? Anla. That’s very pretty. As we’ve discussed we will be using your surname, so. Anla Raine. Again, the phonetics are impeccable.”

“Go the hell to sleep!”